New research explains why
Lions prefer dark nights when looking for food. Photo by Kristin de More
It’s not to do with the gravitational pull of a full moon. Nor for any paranormal reasons. But yes, you are, indeed, more likely to be eaten by lions in the days following a full moon – assuming, of course, that you’re wandering around at night in Africa.
And even if you’re not in Africa, it’s good to be watchful if you’re out in the wild among large predators when the moon is waning.
The reason is very simple: The waning moon rises later, and that means the evenings are darker.
An African study of 500 lion attacks over 10 years in Tanzania showed that the vast majority of attacks occurred after dusk and before 10 p.m. on nights when the moon was waning and therefore not rising in the early evening.
Lions hunt most successfully when it’s dark, and bright moonlit nights often leave them going hungry.
The full moon rises precisely as the sun sets, and in the days after full moon, it comes up roughly an hour later each night. So the evenings right after a full moon are good times for lions to catch up on missed meals.
The same is true for other animals who like to hunt in the dark. This includes cougars and wolves.
The researchers suggested that this may explain why our ancestors thought of the full moon as a harbinger of evil and danger. They lived close to lions for thousands of years, and would have seen the full moon as the day after which lions were most likely to attack them.
“Thus we have always been exposed to risks of predation that cycled with the waxing and waning of the moon,” they wrote in their study, which is published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
For a summary of the findings, see the Daily Telegraph.